(EDGE) It's been nearly two years since Rentboy.com became such a priority for the Department of Homeland Security that after operating in plain sight for two decades, it was raided and shuttered by the government. With sentencing set for Friday, it looks as though the saga of the mega gay escort website, which many viewed as a witch hunt against sex workers, may finally come to an end with its CEO Jeffrey Hurant facing time in prison, Gay City News reports.
Last October Durant admitted in Brooklyn federal court that he broke the law by promoting "the exchange of sexual conduct in return for a fee" on his Rentboy site.
The Associated Press reported at the time that under the plea deal, Hurant agreed to appeal a sentence of two years or less in prison. But as Gay City News reports, Tyler Smith, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case against, wrote in a July 16 sentencing memorandum about charges against both Hurant and the business he owned, that prison time for the CEO would "promote respect for the law and the seriousness of the offense."
The offenses, in this case, are one count of promoting prostitution and one count of money laundering on his business' behalf. Roughly $1.5 million in Rentboy.com assets were seized by the government during the raid.
"In the plea agreement, the government agreed to seek a one-level reduction based on the case being disposed of as to both defendants simultaneously," Smith wrote. "The guidelines range of imprisonment should be 15 to 21 months."
In imposing a sentence for Hurant, Smith seeks to send a message to other online escort operations that are still in business.
"Rentboy.com's main competitor is still in operation," Smith wrote. "Without actual punishment in this case, the operators of those websites will likely conclude that in the unlikely event of their conviction, they can expect only a slap on the wrist; hardly the type of punishment that would dissuade someone from the significant money that can be obtained through this type of criminal activity."
The Rentboy.com raid sparked outrage in the LGBT community with many calling the case a witch hunt. Protests about the case occurred in four cities. Hurant received the support of LGBT rights organizations, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National Center for Transgender Equality. A legal defense fundwas set up, and more than 200 donors chipped in to raise more than $63,000 to represent Hurant in court.